It’s been a three years since I started using Polar products — I started using the Polar H10 chest strap in 2017 only for bike rides and other outdoor exercise, and then got a Polar A370 watch in 2018 for general fitness tracking (step counting.) This year, with the pandemic and all, I went to town using my Polar gear. Bike rides, running, walking, So so much data collected, and yet, not enough data. Check out the summary report that I pulled from the Polar site below:
Do you know how many feet I climbed with heart-pounding intensity this year? How many fast descents I made? I sure don’t, because phones don’t have barometers to gauge your elevation. Also, while the A370 is a pretty nice fitness tracker, it only has A-GPS (“A” stands for “Assisted”) so you only get GPS location data when the watch is paired to your phone. Let me tell you, this does not work well, if ever.
Are any of these dealbreakers? No, but I’ve been finding them sufficiently irritating that I wanted more. Also this summer, what with all of my riding, I found that while using your phone as a bicycling computer is convenient, you’ll be lucky if your phone has enough battery to get you back home after a long ride.
After much perusing this year (I’m talking months), I decided to make a move to Garmin – their wearables, the bicycling computers, and their ecosystem. Yes, you can use a mix of products from different companies, but there’s a large benefit to using one ecosystem. I wanted any running and biking and high intensity training to be all reflected in the one app. I want unified data, and it has to be available seamlessly. Polar and Garmin are the best two, in my opinion, to offer that. I didn’t want to buy the very old Polar bicycling computer, and I didn’t want to buy the very expensive $500 Polar Vantage running watches either. Sorry, Polar. It’s not me, it’s you.
The first step would be a new watch. While I was torn by multitude of choices, based on my requirements and budget, I went with the Vivoactive 4. I did like the beautiful AMOLED screen on the Venu, but I couldn’t justify buying a $389 fitness watch that you KNOW I’m going to scratch or wreck in some way. The Vivoactive 4 with all of the same features as the Venu (but a transreflective display) at $219 was the right price for me and my budget.
I gotta say that I’m enjoying the Vivoactive 4, despite the screen where black is really not black. The features are good, and it’s accurate. How do I know? For the first two practice runs, I had the Vivoactive 4 on my left wrist, the Polar A370 on my right wrist and paired to my Polar H10 chest strap monitor. I ran on both days, and found the Vivoactive 4 recorded the same heart rate and calories burned as the Polar. Could I run without needing an additional chest strap? Wow.
In addition, the Garmin app is so much better than Polar’s app. Synching between the phone and watch is effortless / seamless without needing any manual intervention. Garmin has also incorporated numerous fitness challenges that you can complete in order to earn badges. For someone like me, who enjoys playing videogames, and earning trophies and other milestones, this is like crack cocaine.
I’m still working on finding other people in the Garmin community to challenge each other. None of my friends or neighbors are on Garmin — they’re all more Apple Watches and Fitbit.
The next phase is the bicycling computer. I haven’t decided between the Garmin Edge 830 or 1030 Plus, but either device will be integrated with Garmin’s app, so I’ll see everything no matter where I am. For example, if I’ve been working out a lot that week, when I fire up the cycling computer, it will know that, show me my workload, and even provide reminders on drinking more water, etc. Love that.